Published on Academy of American Poets (

At the End of the Endless Decade

For years had anyone needed me
to spell the word commiserate

I’d have disappointed them. I envy
people who are more excited

by etymology than I am, but not
the ones who can explain how

music works—I wonder whether
the critic who wrote

that the Cocteau Twins were the voice
of god still believes it. Why not,

what else would god sound like.
Even though I know better, when I see

the word misericordia I still think
suffering, not forgiveness;

when we commiserate we are united
not in mercy but in misery,

so let’s go ahead and call this abscess
of history the Great Commiseration.

The difference
between affliction and affection

is a flick, a lick—but check
again, what lurks in the letters

is “lie,” and what kind of luck
is that. As the years pile up

our friends become more vocal
about their various damages:

Won’t you let me monetize
your affliction, says my friend

the corporation. When I try to enter
the name of any city

it autocorrects to Forever:
I’m spending a week in Forever,

Forever was hotter than ever
this year, Forever’s expensive

but oh the museums,
and all of its misery’s ours.


Copyright © 2020 by Mark Bibbins. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 5, 2020 by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“In fairness to the decade, the endlessness began in earnest in 2016, growing exponentially, hideously endlesser after that. You might be familiar with W. H. Auden’s observation, often quoted out of context, that ‘poetry makes nothing happen,’ but if this poem gets you to listen to the Cocteau Twins today, that’s something.”
Mark Bibbins


Mark Bibbins

Mark Bibbins is the author of four books of poetry, most recently 13th Balloon (Copper Canyon Press, 2020). He teaches in the graduate writing programs of The New School and Columbia University, and in NYU's Writers in Florence program. He lives in New York City.

Date Published: 2020-03-05

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